Friday, May 24

Indian River County mobile home park residents concerned about nearby homeless camp

Residents who live at Countryside at Vero Beach mobile home community reported seeing several homeless people living in the wooded areas surrounding their neighborhood.

Resident Stephen Fitzsimmons said there are three locations around the park where he believes the homeless hang out.

“The first time I found this particular encampment I was riding my bike just along the canal here,” he said. “There had to be twelve bicycles on the ground, five or six tents.”

He and several other residents are concerned worrying the homeless are responsible for some recent thefts in the community.

“My wife likes to walk early in the morning before it gets hot, and she doesn’t feel safe anymore,” Fitzsimmons added.

Another resident, Joanne Huffman Hagge, has similar concerns.

“This is supposed to be a safe community, and it’s not very safe anymore,” Hagge. “My brand new tricycle, electric tricycle was stolen. It was about 1:30 in the morning Tuesday night, and it was locked under my carport.”

The Indian River County Sheriffs Office said while they can’t tie the homeless to any of the thefts, they are aware of the encampments and are addressing the problem.

“Our team went out there. We did identify one guy that was living in there. We identified the person who owned the property, and we did remove them,” Sheriff Eric Flowers said. “We have also identified some former camps, but as of this time, it appears as though we’ve removed all the problems in the area.”

Flowers said his patrols will continue monitoring the sites, adding that these encampments are common on unoccupied private property. That’s why they’ve established a task force focusing on addressing the growing homeless population.

“Whenever we encounter a new homeless person to our area, we make sure that we’ve logged them,” Flowers said. “We have an idea of where they’re staying or where theyre going to, any next of kin contact.”

Flowers explained this is just the start of their efforts.

“I think over time this is something that we’re going to see more and more of, and we’re going to have to dedicate more resources to it,” he said.

The Indian River County Sheriffs Office asks that anyone who has identified an issue of homelessness in their community contact their community affairs unit so they can intervene.

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